Pac-Mecium and Pond Pong: Playing Games With Protozoa

We thought it was odd (but awesome) when video games started incorporating physical fitness, but a team of physicists at Stanford University have taken video game innovations to a whole new level of weird. Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and his crew have developed video games that use real live paramecia as playable characters.

Games like Pong, Pac-Man and pinball are recast with itty-bitty creatures that are controlled with electric polarity or chemical repellents. The paramecia are held in a chamber on which a camera is trained. The player looks at a screen Рwhere a virtual game board is overlaid on the actual enclosure Рand manipulates the tiny characters.

But of course, because the paramecia games were developed by physicists, there is an educational element overarching the fun. Riedel-Kruse believes that the games will help educate people about the basics of biomedicine and biotechnology. The team behind the games hopes that other scientists will develop similar crowd-friendly activities that will introduce laypeople to different areas of science in a fun (but sneakily educational) way.

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See more in Earth & Nature or under Science. January, 2011.
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